Climate Change is bad news for water scarce Malta

Malta is known for being hot and dry in summer and wet in winter. If climate change forecasts prove correct, Malta’s summer could get a lot longer, hotter and drier.

Malta is known for being hot and dry in summer and wet in winter. If climate change forecasts prove correct, Malta’s summer could get a lot longer, hotter and drier.

Climate change forecast maps recently published by the European Environmental Agency show that by 2050 rainfall in the Mediterranean could decrease by as much as 15% over 1960 figures. Alarmingly, temperatures could rise by peaks of as much as 2.5'C.

A particular concern in this scenario is the decrease in rainfall. Rain which is absorbed into the earth and slowly filters its way down into aquifers is the only source of recharge for groundwater bodies. A decrease in rainfall will decrease this recharge and lower the amount of quality groundwater that can be sustainably extracted.

This is likely to have a significant impact on Malta as much of Malta's freshwater comes from groundwater bodies. This water is mixed with reverse-osmosis water and forms 45% of the water provided by the Water Services Corporation (2). Groundwater is also heavily relied upon by agriculture, and to a lesser extent by various industries.

The European Environmental Agency has noted that 'Europe will need to adapt', to cope with the increased temperatures and reduced amount of naturally available freshwater.

One of the ways it will need to adapt is in its use of water. Decreasing amounts of freshwater make it all the more important to ensure that our consumption of water is as efficient and sustainable as possible.

The Malta Business Bureau's EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project is helping businesses and hotels reduce their water consumption. It is doing this by providing expert assistance to identify water saving opportunities in their current operation.

To achieve this end the first step is to cut down on unnecessary waste. Showers with high flow rates and toilet flushings with excessive volumes are two excellent examples of facilities which can be easily controlled. Other solutions include rainwater harvesting, which in many commercial ventures is an attractive and easily implemented measure to further help make water consumption more sustainable.

The EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project has recently completed a set of water audits amongst businesses and hotels. The audits revealed that in several cases there is significant potential for water savings, with reductions in consumption of up to 30% possible just by increasing efficiency of current features. Adding rainwater harvesting to the list of implemented solutions could increase this figure to a staggering 60% in some enterprises.

The European Environmental Agency report goes on to predict that in the 50 years following 2050, the Mediterranean will see 'much bigger changes than elsewhere'. This highlights the importance of investing in water savings now, by developing a water saving culture with all the infrastructure it requires to operate effectively.

Doing this not only protects our water supply and prepares for a future where water is scarcer, but it also benefits commercial enterprises by reducing their utility bills – a win, win situation for all.

As appearing in the Times of Malta, Sunday 27th May 2012